STIGMERGY: The C4SS Blog
Response To Comments On We’re Not Conservatives: Part Two

The Libertarian Alliance blog posted my piece on why libertarians are not conservatives. It wasn’t received very well. The poster of the article argued thusly:

Note: In my view, this is a silly article. The author does to conservatism just what the more brain dead conservatives do to libertarianism – that is, to pick out one strand from a cluster of movements, and to take that as representative of the whole. There are conservative objections to war and to moral regulation. Indeed, the moral regulation of the Victorian Age was mostly brought in by “liberals” against Tory opposition. And the most prominent calls for a negotiated end to the Great War came from within the Tory aristocracy. As for point 3), there are conservative defenses of tradition that are not at all incompatible with libertarianism. I give this one out of five on the grounds that the author got her spelling right. SIG

I admit to lumping all conservatives together, but what I described has gone under the label of conservative. As for defenses of tradition being compatible with libertarianism; I disagree with this. The essence of libertarianism is individualism and individual rights. This conflicts with obedience to inherited collectivist traditional social norms. Independent judgment and reason tend to undermine traditionalism.

The conservative’s tendency to favor the preservation of established institutions will also come into conflict with the libertarian. All institutions are subject to rational examination and change in a free society. This can’t be reconciled with a conservative defense of tradition or inherited institutions. Tradition also tends to require coercion or ostracism to maintain. Both of which are tools for controlling people. This is not to say that coercion and ostracism are always unjustified, but they are preferably used for something other than the continuation of existing social norms.

Another way in which tradition and libertarianism are at odds is historical. History is replete with examples of tyranny and unfree societies. There is a dearth of relative freedom throughout history, so it’s strange to look to what has come before for inspiration.

Tradition is not favorable to liberty. It cannot substitute for a rational delineation of rights. The social norms that most human beings have embraced are simply not conducive to liberty. We error in relying on them. Murray Rothbard provides a fine conclusion to this post below:

“Come join us, come realize that to break once and for all with statism is to break once and for all with the Right-wing. We stand ready to welcome you.” ~ Murray Rothbard

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